Dietary protein supplementation in the elderly for limiting muscle mass loss

Amino Acids. 2017 Jan;49(1):33-47. doi: 10.1007/s00726-016-2355-4. Epub 2016 Nov 2.


Supplementation with whey and other dietary protein, mainly associated with exercise training, has been proposed to be beneficial for the elderly to gain and maintain lean body mass and improve health parameters. The main objective of this review is to examine the evidence provided by the scientific literature indicating benefit from such supplementation and to define the likely best strategy of protein uptake for optimal objectified results in the elderly. Overall, it appears that an intake of approximately 0.4 g protein/kg BW per meal thus representing 1.2-1.6 g protein/kg BW/day may be recommended taking into account potential anabolic resistance. The losses of the skeletal muscle mass contribute to lower the capacity to perform activities in daily living, emphasizing that an optimal protein consumption may represent an important parameter to preserve independence and contribute to health status. However, it is worth noting that the maximal intake of protein with no adverse effect is not known, and that high levels of protein intake is associated with increased transfer of protein to the colon with potential deleterious effects. Thus, it is important to examine in each individual case the benefit that can be expected from supplementation with whey protein, taking into account the usual protein dietary intake.

Keywords: Aging; Anabolic resistance; High protein diet; Protein turnover; Sarcopenia; Whey protein.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Amino Acids, Essential / administration & dosage
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Resistance Training
  • Sarcopenia / diet therapy*
  • Sarcopenia / metabolism
  • Sarcopenia / pathology
  • Sarcopenia / prevention & control
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Whey Proteins / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Whey Proteins